Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Motives behind Sankracharya’s arrest

Motives behind Sankracharya’s arrest
Syed Ali Mujtaba

The arrest of the Sankaracharya, Sri Jayendra Saraswati, of Kanchipuram mutt, a monastic order, has taken the nation by a storm. Interestingly, the Tamil Nadu police arrested the high priest on murder charges on the day of Deepawali, the most important festival, in the Hindu calendar, which symbolizes victory of light over darkness.

The head of the monastic order was charged for conspiring in the murder of a former official of his mutt who was killed in the temple premises in September 2004. The allegation against the seer is that he had serious differences with the manager over the financial management of the mutt, and when it become irreconcilable, he hired professional killers to eliminate him.

It is alleged that the seer had paid some other persons to make confessional statements before the police that in order to mislead the investigation. It was during the course of interrogation the police realized that those persons making confessional statements were only a cover up, and the actual conspirator was none other than the head of the Kanchipuram mutt, Swami Jayandera Sarwasti.

The high profile seer enjoys considerable support among the political leaders of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), which led the previous national government, in India. Some very important persons figure is in the list of his devotees and a section of Hindu community see him as a revered figure.

Swami Jayendra Saraswati hit the national limelight, since he accepted to act a go between the Hindu and Muslim community, to resolve the temple- mosque dispute in Ayodhya. The issue became a major flash point in 1992, when Hindu fanatics pull down a 16th century mosque there, claiming it to be their temple.

The arrest of Sankracharya, therefore was not an ordinary event as it took many people by a surprise. There are various ways to look at his arrest; first, every one is equal before law, and no one can claim to have a partial treatment, even though he may be a religious head and may be enjoy an exalted position among his community. According to law, if a person is a murderer or a conspirator in a murder, he / she should get the same treatment what any perpetrator such crime deserves and there cannot be any discrimination on the basis of any ascription.

The other way to look at is that every one is innocent till proven guilty and no one has a right to disgrace anyone and pronounce him criminal on the basis of some statements. In this case, the accused is not an ordinary citizen, but a revered saint and the law enforcement agencies could have taken into consideration that his arrest would not only damage his reputation but also of his monastic order which has an ancient history. They should have come up with answers, whether they could retrieve him back his dignity if he was absolved from the charges framed against him. The best course could have been to consider the seer innocent till the legal formalities ran its course and the charges were proved to be true in the court of law.

Even as the opinion remains divided on the arrest of the Sankracharya, there are questions being raised as to why such haste was shown to take the seer into custody. There definitely must be some motive behind it, especially when hundreds of similar criminal cases are gathering dust and no arrest has ever been made. The question is being asked what prompted in this case to be so quick to take such a tough action?

Those looking for political motive say that it was a well-thought out plan by the ruling AIADMK party, which knew that its political repercussion would help rather than dim its electoral prospects in the coming elections in the state. The ruling party, which got a drubbing in the recent Lok Sabha polls, was not confident that the withdrawal of some of its policies, which had triggered its debacle, had allayed the apathy of the voters. In order to play down to the gallery, it ordered the arrest of Sankrachrya, to woo the anti-Brahmin votes, and thus conveying them that it has decided to shed its pro-Hindu image.

Playing the Dravidian card had become imperative for the ruling party because there was no way other than this it could regain its lost political ground. The results were quick for ever one to see, as the initial reaction to the arrest was explicit and all the Dravidian parties hailed the bold move and came on board with the ruling party on this issue.

The motive of the arrest is also seen as an attempt by the AIADMK to make a dent into the opposition alliance, which is so formidable, that it cannot take it headlong alone. This masterstroke was to reach out to some of the constituents of the opposition alliance to join its ranks on the Dravidian plank. The effort was to move those allies, which may feel disgruntled of not getting the adequate number of seats if they remain in the overcrowded alliance. Since this arrest has erased the ideological differences, which remained there, some opposition allies may consider switching sides for better political representation in the coming assembly election.

The other political reason attributed to this high profile arrest is that the ruling AIADMK party wanted to convey to the so called national parties that it is they who are dependent on the regional parties and not the other way round. It was also an open message to the national parties that no matter how strong they are, it is the regional parties who can call the shots, and they have no leverage in the affairs of the state.

It is also to give the so-called national parties a sound of their own music, which they not long ago utilized to crawl to power. The pain and agony, which now have come to hunt them was gift in return to those who have been mercilessly dishing it out to others by dividing the society in the name of religion. No wonder, the larger fall out of the arrest of Sankrachara was felt on those constituent who were once on the forefront of Hindutva campaign in the country.

Tamil Nadu opposition leader and the DMK supremo, M. Karunanidhi see personal motive of the Chief Minister Jayalalitha behind the arrest of Sankracharya. He says that ‘there were some personal matters between Sankracharya and Chief Minister, which had prompted her to take such an action. The Dravidian leader, who initially had praised the Chief Minister for her bold policies, raises the question why such haste was shown in this case, while there are many other such cases on which the government was sleeping over?

The motive mill continues to churn out reasons for the arrest of the Hindu seer. One theory that is making round is that Chief Minister Jayalalitha has a fascination for remaining in the national limelight. Though this can be said about other politicians as well, but any one who has followed her political career can say with authority that there is some truth in such assumptions. The siren of Tamil movie, ever since has entered into the political arena, has been in the thick of publicity for right or wrong reasons.

There can be no end to the attributions to the seer’s arrest, but on an ethical plain it can be said that the way he was taken into custody and put behind the bars was not in a good taste. The government could have pursued the same legal formalities by keeping him under police surveillance either in the mutt premises or elsewhere. This could have avoided the negative publicity, and the public outcry, which followed his arrest.

However, ethics and morality is a rare commodity in our country, to expect it from those who are in the business of serving the people would be asking the fish to remain out of water. The arrest of Sankracharya suggests that the scarcity of moral virtues has entered the domain of spiritualism as well.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com


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